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Notre Dame return man C.J. Sanders expected to miss four months

Last season, C.J. Sanders averaged 7.3 yards on 25 punt returns and 22.9 yards on 28 kick returns. Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame will be without its starting return specialist for about four months, as coach Brian Kelly said Wednesday that sophomore receiver C.J. Sanders has a hip flexor strain that will sideline him through most of the summer.

Kelly also said that redshirt junior guard Colin McGovern and senior receiver Corey Robinson are dealing with concussions, while receiver Miles Boykin has a spiral fracture of a finger.

Redshirt freshman safety Mykelti Williams is no longer with the program, Kelly added, although he said he couldn’t elaborate on the matter.

On Sanders' injury, Kelly said: “There’s still consulting as to whether that’s a surgical procedure to reattach, similar to a Torii Hunter injury that he had, where it’s either PRP or surgically repaired. We did not surgically repair in Hunter’s; we PRP’d it, so it’s kind of one of those -- it’s three, four, five centimeters, as I’m told. Again, I’m giving you secondhand information here, and try to decide whether it’s a surgical repair that’s about four months, so we should get him back running full-go late July, and should be able to get him rounding into shape for camp in August.”

Sanders made an immediate impact last fall as a rookie, becoming the first Irish player to return both a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown in the same season since Vontez Duff in 2002. Sanders averaged 7.3 yards on 25 punt returns and 22.9 yards on 28 kick returns.

Kelly said that sophomore walk-on receiver Chris Finke will get the majority of punt-return reps while Sanders is out, and the kick-returner spot will be more open.

Kelly is optimistic that McGovern, Robinson and Boykin will be back when the Irish return to practice March 30, as the team has off for Easter. The seventh-year coach doesn’t sound overly concerned about any effects the concussion may have on Robinson, who suffered one last year during spring ball as well.

“I think what we want to be is very careful with Corey,” Kelly said. “Obviously we don’t get to the point where we overreact or under-react. When it comes to any kind of head injury, we want to be on top of it and I don’t know that there’s ever a feeling that somebody’s going to be disqualified because they’ve had a second head injury.

“We’ll go through the protocol, I think we have a great one, Dr. (Matt) Leiszler does a great job of working with our guys, so I don’t think we’re overly concerned, other than we’ll make sure that we do all of the little things the right way.”